Matuto, SOBs, The Devil and The Diamond
Combining forró accordion, jazzy-swing guitar, cajun fiddle, and a range of folkloric Brazilian percussion, Matuto creates an uncommon blend of dance-inducing Pan-American roots. The group will perform on February 9, 2013, at SOBs, 200 Varick Street, New York, NY at 6 p.m. Call 212.243.4940 for more information.
It's Carnival in Recife. It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And watch out: That just may be the Devil spinning through the drunken, dancing crowd, trying to get friendly with the saint in disguise, with the diamond in the rough. The rolling drums and quicksilver accordion licks, the earthy vibe and thoughtful reflections mingle on Matuto's latest refinement of their Appalachia-gone-Afro-Brazilian sound, The Devil and The Diamond (Motema Music; release: May 14, 2013).
Matuto's songs can sway hips just as easily as spark insights. Drawing on Northeastern Brazil's folkloric rhythms like forró, maracatu, or coco, and on deep Americana-from bluegrass to spirituals to swampy Louisiana jams-Matuto uses unexpected Pan-American sonic sympathies to craft appealing, roosty, yet philosophical tales of love, self-discovery, nostalgia, and true peace.
"The devil is what's keeping us from our best selves, which is the diamond we have the potential to become," Ross explains, spinning the narrative thread that ties the album's pieces together. "That dichotomy, that tension exists in all of us. In a loose way, this album outlines the journey we take, when we wrestle with the devil and find the diamond."
What wide-ranging Americana and jazz guitarist Clay Ross and accordionist Rob Curto, one of the movers behind New York's Forró For All (when not touring with folks like Lila Downs and David Krakauer) began as a curious exploration of their shared musical loves, Matuto (a Northeastern Brazilian slang term for "bumpkin") has blossomed into a platform for expressing broad truths, ideas inspired by Buddhist sutras, personal epiphanies, and the musicians' down-home upbringings. It felt like the perfect way to celebrate ten years for Motema, an open-eared and broad-minded label featuring music that crosses genres and takes listeners on a journey thanks to stellar musicianship, and wise and intriguing lyrics.
Matuto are part of a broader, loosely defined movement of hard-to-define acoustic innovators, musicians savoring their own heritage as they commune across genre and cultural bounds. Hailing from different parts of the country, Ross and Curto first met in Brooklyn's genre-defying music scene. After laying down tracks on each other's albums, they headed to Recife together and became fast friends as they played music, listened to local ensembles, held workshops in favela community centers, and won over local fans.
Friendship and co-creation honed the original Matuto idea. They turned what could have been little more than a wacky side gig into a serious musical venture, in which seemingly disparate threads and brainstorms are woven together organically. "Our sound has really gelled," explains Curto, "and our style had become more codified, from a musical stand point, especially in the use of the accordion and fiddle."